∞ Home Sharing is iPod touch's killer app for families

If Apple can simply get this message out the door, the iPod touch will sell itself to families looking to maximize their holiday budget. iTunes 9 and Home Sharing is what can make the iPod touch the one gaming system that no family can live without, one whose value is considerably better than anything Sony or Nintendo offer. [ad#Google Adsense 300×250 in story]I have three kids ages 9 to 14 in my house. All of them are video game nuts, just like their old man, and each of them has a handheld game system they’ve come to rely on. Nintendo is the most popular handheld game company in our house. Unfortunately, cartridges for the DS and DSi don’t come cheap, and siblings regularly resort to violence and intimidation to borrow each other’s games.

For my part, I’ve convinced one of my kids that an iPod touch is the right thing to hope for under the Christmas tree this year. And he’s the master salesman — I’m pretty sure he’ll break the other two before too long.

Buy it once, play it on up to five machines

Home Sharing lets five Mac or PC users under the same roof share all the content they’ve purchased on the App Store. It’s a feature of Apple’s recently released iTunes 9, and it’s trivially easy to use. Once you’ve turned it on and keyed it to a master account, any of the audio, video, or applications in the iTunes libraries of those five computers can be shared. The same goes with audiobooks, podcasts and even ringtones.

Over the past year, I’ve amassed quite a collection of games for my iPhone 3G. Everything from word games to puzzle games, arcade games, some role playing games — my interests run pretty deep.

overview_store20090909The second my kids get their own iPod touches, they can use every single game I already own. They can copy music and video I want to share with them, too.

This means no more lost cartridges or discs under the couch or behind the bed. This means no more pulled hair or scratches and bruises over who gets to play now.

But what’s in it for developers?

The value proposition here seems remarkably lopsided in favor of the consumer, until you scratch the surface. Because when Apple introduced iPhone OS 3.0 earlier this year, they put in a feature that’s been making game developers in the console market a bundle of money: It’s called downloadable content (DLC), but you probably know it better as In-App Purchases.

Developers who want to play in the App Store need to accept that Apple’s running the show when it comes to distribution. That means that digital rights management (DRM) is under Apple’s control, as well: Developers need to accept that up to five iPhones or iPod touches can play the game they’ve only made only one sale on.

But Home Sharing doesn’t extend to In-App Purchases. Anything that enhances the game enough for the developer to charge extra for is fair game in this scenario, so a 99 cent game may ultimately net the developer several extra dollars per unit in add-ons. If one of my kids grabs a new level pack for one of their favorite games and the others want it, that’s two additional sales.

In the end, Apple is left with an important message to broadcast to consumers: The iPod touch is a great gaming machine and a great value. At a time when many families are continuing to stare down the barrel of unemployment, underemployment or just an unsteady economy, it’s a message that resonates.

  • Glenn Fleishman

    This may be obvious, but I’m having trouble using Home Sharing. I enable it on the Mac mini in our home that we use as a joint media machine. That machine uses my iTunes account. I have that account authorized on three computers for iTunes Store playback.

    I enabled Home Sharing on that computer, and then tried to make this work on my wife’s, who has her own iTunes Store account. I attempted to log in to Home Sharing using my account on her computer, and got an error.

    Should that work? Or do you have to have a single family iTunes Store account?

    • Jim

      You can only use home sharing with one iTunes Music Store account. Home sharing works well. I’ve an iPod synced to one computer and an iPhone synced to another and I can copy over apps (and music, etc) between them.

      I think the article may be wrong in saying its limited to 5 iPhones or iPod touches. It’s limited to 5 computers, which each can support multiple portable devices. It’s unlikely people will have one account, up to 5 computers and lots of devices though.

      • I offer my family as a counterexample; I have a Mac desktop and laptop, my husband has a laptop (and a LED cinema display as his desktop), my daughter has an iMac and my son has a Mac Mini. So that’s five. I recently upgraded my (five year old) laptop — I intend to give the old one to my daughter but I will not be able to authorise that computer on my iTunes account or for Home Sharing (which otherwise is very good I think). I don’t think we’re that unusual a family — it’s just that Macs last so long we can trickle them down to other family members almost indefinitely.

  • I’m not sure how all in-app purchases work, but some are at the account level and can be purchased once and downloaded again to multiple devices. I bought the extra levels in Ramp Champ, for example, and only had to download them again to my wife’s iPhone. I didn’t have to pay.

  • Mr. Cohen, congratulations on your first post on The Loop as a staffer.

  • Good to see the MacCentral guys back at it.

  • Congrats on the position Peter. Look forward to reading your articles.

  • Joe

    While this is definitely a sellable bullet point for iPod/iPhone to families, it would be better if the game library was anything even close to what you can get on other portable gaming systems. The iPhone has a lot of cheapies, a lot of half-assed ports, and a lot of pure junk. There’s nothing on par with the quality of the latest Pokemon game or the latest Mario&Luigi. Yet.

    Sure, every kid in your family can share one purchased copy of TapWords Bonus Deluxe 3D or whatever… but when the rest of the kids are trading pokemon with DSi’s, being budget-minded is not going to score them cool points!

  • abugida

    Are there a lot of games with DLC? I was under the impression that they are quite a hassle for developers b/c Apple does not deliver them, but the developer has to provide them from their own servers and for this reason has to collect customer credentials just to be able to offer re-downloads and/or re-activations which in effect takes away much of the service the AppStore offers to developers for its 30 % share. Is that correct?

  • Bill Henry

    Now if you could access the streaming video and music from your iPods and iPhones over your home wifi from the various homeshared Macs in the house, you would have supplied everyone with a personal gaming AND media viewer in one iPod touch purchase.

  • You do have to use one account to initially set up the home sharing on each mac, but after that is set up, you can share apps from multiple accounts among multiple macs (up to 5) by authorizing each mac with all the iTunes accounts.

    My wife has a MBP and an iPhone and her own iTunes account. I have the same (MBP, iPhone, own iTunes acct). We have set up home sharing using my account, and then each of us has authorized the other’s mac with one of our five “authorizations” on our iTunes accounts. I have purchased an app on my iTunes account, and my wife has successfully copied it over Home Sharing, and installed it on her iPhone, (thru her additionally authorized Mac), where they now run, no problem. Likewise, she has purchased apps, I have copied her apps via Home Sharing to my Mac, (additionally authorized by my wife with her account), installed her apps on my iPhone, they run, no problem. Same with music. It did ask us to repeat the password at one point, which was odd, because it then indicated it was already authorized, but regardless, it works! We can both buy apps, and share them with each other using Home Sharing. Bringing my son, who has his own iMac and his iPod Touch into the Home Share next!

  • gregor

    There seems to be no limit to the number of devices that can share a single itunes account. The scenario where this is relevant is for school class sets. We’re looking at using IPTs for education, and this is a selling point.

    • CCC

      Ok I have an Ipod Touch 3. Me and my lady are both getting the Ipod 4s. That will make 3 in the house. We are gonna pass the 3 to our daughter. But on the 3 a bunch of games were purchased, some hers most mine. Can we share all of these games between the 3 ipods?

      • Peter Cohen

        Just use the same iTunes account on all three machines and you can share content.

        By the way, you’re responding to a year and a half old thread.